UAE is officially a ‘state for happiness’ and ‘tolerance’
By Richard Spencer MIDDLE EAST EDITOR
THE oil-rich home of glitz, the United Arab Emirates, has appointed new ministers of state for “tolerance” and “happiness” as part of a cabinet reshuffle as it attempts to cement its position as the most eyecatching nation in the Arab world. The reshuffle had been signalled in advance, with the prime minister, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, who is also the ruler of Dubai, saying he would establish a “council of youth” with its own minister, later announced as 22year-old Shamma Al Mazrui. Sheikh Mohammed – using Twitter, his preferred medium of communication with his people – also announced a series of ministry mergers and a decision to “outsource” large areas of government to semi-autonomous quangos and the private sector. He said that there would be two new positions. “A new post, minister of state for happiness, will align and drive government policy to create social good and satisfaction,” he said. “The post of minister of state for tolerance has been created to promote tolerance as a fundamental value in UAE society.” Sheikh Mohammed gave few details of what the daily duties of either minister would be, except, in the first case, to promote a virtuous and family-focused society. However, the ministry of tolerance at least is symbolically important – the vast majority of UAE residents are expatriates, many of them from religions other than the Sunni Islam that is the state’s official creed. Two of the 9/11 suicide attackers were from the UAE and its acceptance of “lifestyles”, including alcohol-fuelled all-night partying, is not universally popular. Tolerance is not likely to be extended to political opposition – scores of activists and Islamists have been jailed in the UAE since the start of the Arab Spring to prevent “contagion” spreading to the Gulf state.